Prince had no will; sister Tyka Nelson asks court for special administrator
Nelson is music legend's only surviving full sibling
Prince's sister believes the superstar musician didn't have a will and asked a Minnesota court to appoint a special administrator to oversee his multimillion-dollar estate, according to court documents filed Tuesday that could signal a looming fight over Prince's assets.
Tyka Nelson, Prince's only surviving full sibling, said in the court filing that immediate action was necessary to manage Prince's business interests following his death last week.
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The documents don't estimate how much his estate may be worth, but Prince made hundreds of millions of dollars for record companies, concert venues and others, and he owned about $27 million US in property in Minnesota.
Nelson asked that Bremer Trust, a corporate trust company, be named administrator of the estate. The court documents say Bremer Bank provided financial services to Prince for many years.
Prince was found dead in Paisley Park, his home and vast recording studio in Chanhassen, Minn., on Thursday at the age of 57. An autopsy was conducted, but complete results won't be in for weeks. Police have said there was no indication of suicide.
Family and friends gathered for a private and intimate memorial service at Paisley Park on Saturday. Prince was cremated.
The filing comes less than a week after the pop star died at his home in suburban Minneapolis. The outpouring of grief and nostalgia prompted fans to buy 2.3 million of his songs in three days.
'He was as big as they get'
Prince owned a dozen properties in and around his famous Paisley Park complex: mostly rural pieces of land and some houses for family members. Public records show those properties were worth about $27 US million in 2016.
Estimates of how much licencing his personal brand will bring in after death reach to the purple clouds.
If he left no will or trust, divvying up his fortune could get complicated, said Susan Link, a top Minnesota probate lawyer. Link, who isn't involved in the case, said attorneys will need to get Prince's siblings to agree on asset distribution, and that it could get extremely complicated if they don't.
"They will try to set the family down," said Link, head of the estate planning group at the Maslon LLP law firm. "They're not going to try to light the match and get a big fire going and get everybody fighting about this."
"He was as big as they get," said Mark Roesler, chief executive of CMG Worldwide, which handles licencing for the estates of Marilyn Monroe, James Dean and other late stars.
Will there be a business built up around Prince 60 years from now like James Dean? The answer is unequivocally yes.- Mark Roesler
Roesler estimates Prince's post-mortem earnings will match top-earning dead celebrities like Elvis Presley, whose estate made $55 million US in 2015, according to Forbes magazine.
"Will there be a business built up around Prince 60 years from now like James Dean? The answer is unequivocally yes," said Roesler.
Nelson's filing said she had "no reason to believe" that Prince executed a will or any other documents saying what should happen to his estate. Nelson's filing said she doesn't know Prince's assets or debts, but said he had "substantial assets" that require protection.
Nelson's attorneys, Mattthew Shea and Brian Dillon of the Minneapolis law firm Gray Plant Mooty, did not immediately return phone calls seeking comment.
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Irwin Feinberg, a Los Angeles trust and probate lawyer who spoke to The Associated Press before Nelson's filing, said wealthy people usually create trusts to avoid the public spectacle of probate court. He said it would be unusual for Prince not to have done so.
Under Minnesota law, if a person dies without a will — and with no surviving parents, children, or grandchildren — the next people in line to share in the estate are the surviving siblings, including half-siblings.
Prince sold over 100 million albums on his lifetime, according to Warner Music Group. And Pollstar, a concert industry magazine, said that in the years that his tours topped the charts — 10 years over four decades performing — the tours raked in $225 million in ticket sales.
Hit albums and tours, but court battles too
His best-earning touring year, when he took in $87.4 million, was 2004, the year he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and two decades after the soundtrack to Purple Rain went multi-platinum.
But what remained in Prince's hands is, by any estimate, less than the sum of ticket and album sales. In every record deal, a cut goes to the label, background performers and music publishers, though Prince published and wrote his own songs. Concert ticket revenue is split among the venue, the promoter, staff and the cost of travelling around. And Prince was known to throw expensive parties.
Court battles in recent years suggest money wasn't free flowing.
In April 2013, Prince lost a suit filed in New York State's Supreme Court brought by perfume maker Revelations Perfume and Cosmetics Inc. for failing to promote the 3121 perfume line named after his album from 2006 and which he touted, but only once, in a massive concert that started July 7, 2007 near Macy's in downtown Minneapolis and ended at 5 a.m. at the First Avenue club, a famous venue from Purple Rain.
He was ordered to pay $4.4 million US; he never did. Instead, plaintiff lawyers went searching for assets, found about $3 million in various Minnesota bank accounts, and used court orders to freeze them, according to Brian Slipakoff, a New York lawyer who represented the perfume maker. Prince settled for a lower amount shortly after.
"It doesn't suggest there was oodles of cash lying around," Slipakoff said last week.
Prince encountered tax difficulties several times over the years, including owing back taxes to France in 2012, which he paid up, and overdue property taxes around $450,000 US in 2010. In 2013, the IRS filed a federal tax lien against him in Carver County Court in Minnesota for $1.6 million US. What happened with that case is unclear.
Records on file with Carver County, where Paisley Park is located, show that he was up to date on his property taxes when he died.